What Does It Mean to Become an Entrepreneur?

By textbook definition, an entrepreneur is the creator and owner of a business that is prepared to take risks in business to launch their vision for a new product, service, or technology. With the many examples of entrepreneurship on today’s world stage, many business people could qualify for this title. Those who move physical products of their own making can be considered entrepreneurs, but the same can also be said for innovators of a new app, or founders of a new social community.

Another thing that qualifies entrepreneurship nowadays is what the business intends to do. Today, entrepreneurship is rarely exclusively about profit—it’s also been imbued with a sense of purpose. The current generation of entrepreneurs dreams not only of making money, but of making the kind of difference in the world that will be long lasting.

So who deserves the mantle of “entrepreneur”? Once a person has been called an entrepreneur, what is it that they are expected to achieve? And lastly, what are the rewards that make entrepreneurship a noble, worthy sacrifice?

In this feature, we’ll take a look at what it takes to be an entrepreneur, set common expectations for the entrepreneurial life, and—most importantly—see what it is that motivates people to take the plunge. Read on to discover what it truly means to be an entrepreneur.

Qualities of an Entrepreneurial Personality

After decades of working with some of the most successful entrepreneurs, I’ve realised quite a few things about the profession. Perhaps the most important insight I have to contribute is that entrepreneurs come from all walks of life. They can be of different ages, educational backgrounds, disciplines, and degrees of experience. They can also begin their businesses from relative comfort or from circumstances of adversity; some of the world’s most compelling success stories see an entrepreneur rise from rags to riches.

But if I were asked for a list of common traits that good entrepreneurs have, I’d narrow it down to these seven:

An entrepreneur must have vision. They must know what exact social, cultural, or financial problem they want to address through their entrepreneurship, and they must have the focus and dedication to see their vision through.

An entrepreneur must have serious passion. Passion is what drives an entrepreneur to do valuable work, even when times are hard. Through thick and thin, at least an entrepreneur will have a solid love of their discipline, their community, or their industry to give them energy.

An entrepreneur should have a one-of-a-kind expertise. Someone who wants to pursue entrepreneurship must show both their peers and their would-be employees that they are competent enough to do so. Their knowledge, talent, and skill must serve as the foundation for the new business.

An entrepreneur must have exceptional work ethic. The entrepreneur must commit to performing well, even when people are not paying attention. This is likely going to be the case for a while, as an entrepreneur typically works outside the traditional constraints of corporate culture.

An entrepreneur must be a risk-taker. This lifestyle demands that an entrepreneur leave their creature comforts behind, learn to make hard calls, and deal with losses. The would-be entrepreneur must accept the many risks of the business as well as the many rewards.

An entrepreneur should be great with people. A captain is nothing without his crew, and the same applies to entrepreneurship. It’s in no way a solo endeavour, and much of its success depends on the hard work of other people. Thus, an entrepreneur must know how to connect with people, how to involve them in the entrepreneurial vision, and how to be generous to them when the company makes it big.

An entrepreneur is innovative and future ready. Lastly, a good entrepreneur must be ready to tackle a business landscape that is constantly changing. They must be ready to adapt their leadership approach as new entrepreneurial challenges arise.

What to Expect When You Become an Entrepreneur

You must know, however, that the path to becoming an entrepreneur entails a steep learning curve, a break away from your old habits, and numerous responsibilities. My advice, based on the experiences of others who’ve trod the path before you, is this:

You have to look for opportunities not just for yourself, but for others. As the primary job creator, executive, and morale booster, you have to think about everyone in your organisation. You have to make sure that your decisions will benefit not only you, but all the other people in your new company.

You have to do things on your own terms, and there will be no one around to make decisions for you. You will need to figure out a new way of doing things that are right for the business. Few of the answers you’ll arrive at will come from a rigid, ‘all-there-in-the-manual’ corporate structure. Though you can enlist some additional help, like that of a business coach, much of the time you will need to take charge of your business strategy. That’s why entrepreneurship is considered by so many to be a “coming-of-age” process.

You can’t be complacent, even for a week. Industries evolve so quickly, and your competition will be very stiff. You shouldn’t let down your guard when it comes to new business trends, technologies, or emergent players in the same line of business as you.

You have to think outside the box. Yesterday’s solutions may not work tomorrow. As an entrepreneur, you will need to be creative, resourceful, and eager to put your theories into practice. It’s the only way to get the company to grow.

You will have to believe in yourself twice as hard. Entrepreneurs take on the challenge of being the first to try something, whether it’s a new product or business model. The difficult thing about that is few other people can be sure that it will succeed. Before you finally prove yourself as an entrepreneur, you will need to be your own biggest cheerleader. You have to be willing to see a future for yourself, even if others can’t do so just yet.

The Singular Rewards of Being an Entrepreneur

Once you’ve weathered these challenges, there are potentially some exceptional rewards in store for you. The rewards of entrepreneurship are unlike those of traditional 9-to-5 position in a large conglomerate. When you’re an entrepreneur, you can look forward to these three things amongst others:

You’ll create new streams of income. Entrepreneurship also creates new wealth to go around in the economy. The money won’t change hands between the same big players all the time; instead, it will have the chance to find its way to you and your business’s employees.

You’ll nurture brand-new talents. The true joy of entrepreneurship is seeing how many people it can motivate to step up. You might be working alongside a top financier, logistician, supplier, or communicator in the making—and you may have the chance to help them get even better at what they do.

You’ll make people think differently—and maybe persuade them to do things a different way. Like the start-up heroes of the 2000s, you too can revolutionise the business environment around you. Your entrepreneurial endeavours could make life infinitely more convenient, productive, or fun for other people—and it wouldn’t be that way if you didn’t make that leap of faith.

The entrepreneurial lifestyle is demanding, fulfilling, and uniquely rewarding, and it attracts people from all walks of life. If this lifestyle is calling out to you, my last suggestion is to heed this call. Who knows where it will take you?

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